Finnair says Australia is a vital market for the Helsinki-based airline as it expands its presence in the fast-growing Asian region.
Although Finnair does not fly its own aircraft to Australia, the airline has codeshare agreements with the likes of Qantas Airways, Japan Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific to feed passengers into its Asian destinations.
Finnair country sales manager for Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia Geoff Stone says the airline was outperforming its peers in what are difficult retail conditions.
Mr Stone says the local market is somewhere between five and 10 per cent down in the second half of calendar 2012, compared with the prior corresponding period.
However, Finnair had experienced good growth out of Australia at the front end of the plane.
“In economy economy class we’re about five per cent down, but our front end, in our business class cabin, we are seeing figures of 20 to 30 per cent up,” Mr Stone said in an interview.
“With not a lot of difference in capacity, I attribute to the growth in the front end traffic to definitely taking market share and also the cost-effective offering that we have in place.
“We are very pleased with the numbers that are coming through.”
Finnair, a member of the oneworld alliance, currently flies to 11 points in Asia and has plans to double its Asian network by 2020.
And because of Finland’s geographic position and fast connection times at Helsinki airport, the airline says it is the quickest way to a host of European cities from Asia via its home port.
The Centre for Aviation said Finnair had “nearly unrivalled competition” in Europe’s nordic region on its flights to Asia.
“The airline has been successful in promoting its `via Helsinki’ concept to draw passengers from other northern and mid-European countries to its Asian network,” the Centre said in a recent research note.
“Unlike several other small European flag carriers, Finnair in recent years has successfully carved out a niche.
“If it does not protect and continue to grow this niche, Finnair will face an uncertain future.”
While Qantas has indicated it will terminate codeshare agreements with Cathay, British Airways and Air France as part of its proposed alliance with Dubai-based Emirates, the tie-up with Finnair will continue for now.
Mr Stone said Australia was a very important market and he hoped to one day have Finnair start services Down Under, although he conceded the costs associated with that made it a difficult prospect.
“Head office has mentioned that Australia is still very much a vital market for us,” Mr Stone said.
“We are very pleased with our reputation in the marketplace, we are very pleased with our pricing points.”
Reported by AAPSunday, September 23, 2012